Posted by Stuart on August 11th, 2010
Keeping computer networks accurate and synchronised can’t be emphasised highly enough. Accurate time is essential in the modern global economy as computer networks across the globe are required to constantly talk to each other.
Failing to ensure a network is accurate and precise can lead to headache after headache: transactions can fail, data can get lost, and error logging and debugging can be virtually impossible.
Atomic clocks form the basis of the global timescale – UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). UTC is used across the globe by technology and computer networks enabling the entire commercial and technological world to communicate in synchronicity together.
But as atomic clocks are highly technical (and expensive) pieces of hardware that require a team of technicians to control – where do people get a source of such accurate time?
The answer is quite simple; atomic clock timestamps are transmitted by physics laboratories and are avlaible from a whole host of sources – kept accurate by the time software NTP (Network Time Protocol).
NTP Time Servers
The most common location for sources of atomic clock generated UTC is the internet. A whole host of online time servers are avlaible for synchronisation but these can vary in their accuracy and precision. Furthermore, using a source of internet time can create vulnerabilities in the network as the firewall has to allow these timestamps through and therefore can be utilised by viruses and malicious software.
By far the most secure and accurate method of receiving a source of atomic clock generated time is to utilise the GPS network (Global Positioning System).
GPS time servers are unique in that as long as there is a clear view of the sky they can receive a source of time – anywhere on the globe, 24 hours-a-day, 365 days a year.
They are also highly accurate with a single GPS NTP time server able to synchronise entire networks to just a few milliseconds of UTC.